As I sat next to one of my closest friends filling out the health card before my yearly massage at a spa for our ladies getaway, I came to the health section where it asked about diseases and medications. Almost immediately, my pen was about to check off the box that said diabetes and under medication list the medications Michael is on currently. I took a deep breath and said in my head, “Joanne, that’s not your medical record. This is medical paperwork for you, not Michael.” I then tried to laugh it off and made a joke with my friend about confusing my health with Michael’s. Man, did I need this spa getaway, but then I thought about it. Was it so far from the truth? Mothers carry their children in their womb for nine months. We are connected instantly with one another, and then after birth it is usually Mom who is dong most of the care giving. It is not only normal, but even sometimes socially acceptable that Moms and their babies and later children bond like one person, until it sometimes becomes unhealthy. A woman should never lose her identity in another, whether it is in a romantic or platonic relationship with an adult or as a parent. Yet this happens all the time. And when a woman is in a care giver role, she automatically becomes so invested in her child’s welfare, it feels like her welfare. Even all the worrying we do about our child’s health, especially exceptional parents, feels like we are worrying about our own health, except it isn’t. I have to constantly remind myself on the days I start to feel sorry for myself for the extra stress worrying about Michael’s emotional and physical health, what another great exceptional mom said to me, “and it’s not even happening to you.” True. It’s his life not mine.
No matter what, our children’s health and problems are their problems. We are just there as guides to help usher them into the world with strategies to handle their stress, anxiety, anger and other challenges. We can’t know what is going on in their heads. I read books and blogs written by other exceptional autistic and ADHD individuals to see what is going on in their heads. This helps me understand Michael better as a lot of it is closer to what I see him expressing. I am doing the same now with people who have diabetes. This gives me a little glimpse into Michael’s brain, and also shows me that though I love him, I am not him and he is not me.
It is not healthy to merge to the point that you forget who you are. My annual spa getaway as well as other little mini rituals I have daily, remind me that I am a separate person besides being Michael’s Mom and advocate. And he needs to see, especially as he gets older, that he is more than just my son. He is an individual with his own tastes, preferences and rights, which his Dad and I are listening more to everyday. We don’t force him to do activities we think are great if he really does not want to do it. Still, I was disturbed when I almost wrote down his medical profile on my medical record for the massotherapist. This showed me that I have been inching a little more away from my personal identity, and not making the time at night to be Joanne. Me. That has to change. It was both easy and difficult to relax on my weekend getaway, but though feeling only a little guilty over a more expensive meal than I usually engage in, I was happy that I got away from being a Mom and wife for 24 hours. I was a woman out having fun with another close woman friend. My biggest problem was which spa pool to soak in, should I indulge in desert, and do I sleep in or get up early to write? All Moms need to have mini times to themselves every day to get re-acquainted with who they are, as well as nightly or weekend sabbaticals once in a while to remind themselves and their families what is important. Self-care goes a long way to healing body, mind and spirit.
Exceptional Parents, do you ever blur your identity with your child’s? If so, think back to the last time you had a Mommy or Daddy night out alone. If you can’t remember when it was, it’s time to book one whether it is a local massage, a walk or coffee out alone, or just going out for dinner with a friend. Remember, you will only be a good parent once you nurture yourself first. You cannot pour from an empty cup. Good luck on your self-care voyage. Until next time.
I am a writer, speaker and parent coach. I blog about how my exceptional son with autism and type 1 diabetes is raising me to a better human being and exceptional mom. My mission is to empower other exceptional parents to trust in their parenting instinct while letting their exceptional child open their eyes to all that is possible! For more information on my coaching services and to download a copy of my FREE EBOOK “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” see my website, http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com.